Jane Smiley

Author and journalist Jo Giese and husband Ed Warren are hosting a sold-out dinner on June 13 at their Malibu home for one of America’s great writers: Jane Smiley.

“Ed and I had the pleasure of attending a LARB (Los Angeles Review of Books) Luminary Dinner recently,” Giese said. “And we so enjoyed the evening, the wonderful experience of being part of a group of intelligent readers from all walks of life, and the personal and intimate exchange between the guests and featured author. Ed and I are thrilled to be able to host, especially since Jane Smiley is a favorite of so many.”

Tom Lutz, editor-in-chief of the LARB, will conduct the interview.

“It is a true honor to have Jane Smiley join us,” he said. “The dinner series is a way to engage the great writers and thinkers of our time with the intellectual community, providing an evening of fun and stimulating conversation about our cultural moment. Jane Smiley is certainly one of those greats. She has worked in almost every genre: the family saga, the comic novel, social satire, domestic drama, dysfunctional relationships, historical, literary essays, nonfiction, young adult, children’s … you name it.”

Smiley currently lives inCarmel Valley with her fourth husband, Jack Canning. Smiley has three children; Canning has two. All five are grown up and the couple has been together since the mid ’90s.

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for her novel, “A Thousand Acres,” published in 1991. Smiley talked to The Malibu Times before the dinner, to delve into her career and reflect on the honors she has received for her work.

When asked how it feels to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Smiley said, “It’s unbelievable and takes a while to get used to. It was a great thrill and you know your obituary will read Pulitzer Prize-winner Jane Smiley, blah blah blah.”

A professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, Smiley loves teaching and does it because she wants to, not because she has to.

“I wrote a book called ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel’ about the history and nature of the novel,” Smiley explained when asked if she has any advice for other writers. “Any advice I have to give is in there.

Currently on a tour promoting “Early Warning,” the second volume of The Last Hundred Years trilogy, Smiley enjoys that side of the business.

“I like talking about my books and people are kind to me,” Smiley said. “I like the LARB a lot. It’s very kind of them to do this dinner and I’m looking forward to it.” The first in The Last Hundred Years series, “Some Luck,” was longlisted for the National Book Award. Smiley is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, joining other well-known authors, including Ray Bradbury who won in 1999. Yet Smiley still finds time to read, admiring Trollope, Dickens and Austen.

“The classic ones,” Smiley explained of her reading choices. “Every so often, I try somebody new. Last year, I read Miklós Bánffy’s ‘Transylvanian Trilogy.’ I liked that a lot. I’m currently reading a nonfiction book called ‘The Year of Lear’ by James Shapiro. I read all the time.”

Lutz called Smiley “one of the most important novelists of our time” but Smiley doesn’t read reviews. “I think they interfere with your experience of your own book,” Smiley shared. “The really good ones make you start fantasizing about all kinds of things and the bad ones make you doubt your own work. So I try to stay away from them as much as I can. But I’m glad the good reviews are out there.” The final installment of her trilogy is due for publication late October.

What’s next for Smiley? “I don’t like to talk about that,” Smiley said. “Ideas don’t come easily to me, but they do come regularly. I usually have something in my mind that’s a possibility.”

When asked if there is a prize she hasn’t won yet that she’d like to, Smiley responded, "Maybe The Guardian’s Bad Sex Award."

For more information about upcoming dinners and events, visit lareviewofbooks.org.

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